December 7, 2013
Unconventional concerts can be interesting
For the Herald
BA’s music scene was recently graced by a plethora of avant garde performancesIn recent days I have attended concerts as unconventional as they were interesting. They were not offered by the big institutions (the CETC depends on the Teatro Colón) and they were performed in rather small venues.
Alicia Terzián has led the Festival Internacional Encuentros for a lengthy 45 years . She has thus enriched our seasons with valuable music, often premières. This year the Festival is held mainly at the agreeable hall of the Consejo Profesional de Ciencias Económicas.
Due to overlapping, so far I have been able to attend just two concerts, both worthy of attention. I was sorry I missed the Grupo Encuentros, the New Docta Ensemble and pianist Christopher Guzmán, as well as an homage to Adelma Gómez organist Luis Caparra at the Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento.
I was able to attend the recitals by Swiss guitarist Christoph Denoth and by mezzosoprano Marta Blanco, accompanied by pianist Enrique Prémoli.
The Denoth programme had a British leaning and started with four pieces by John Dowland originally composed for lute (his encore was by the same Elizabethan composer). They sound well on guitar. Then, the world première of Traces, five pieces dedicated to Denoth by Hans-Martin Linde (Switzerland, 1930), well-known as a Baroque flutist. The titles are in English and the second piece is Remembrance of BB (Benjamin Britten). We heard moderately modern music written with a sure hand.
The masterpiece was Britten’s Nocturnal Op.70, deeply ruminative transformations of Dowland’s song Come, Heavy Sleep. Finally, a première by the recently deceased Hans Werner Henze: The Royal Wintermusic II Sonata (on Shakespearean characters), three pieces of widely divergent styles: humorous for Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Bottom’s Dream, and properly dishevelled for Mad Lady Macbeth. Denoth played with finely honed professionalism.
Blanco and Prémoli have worked together in recitals for many years. Their selection of mostly 20th century music was this time strongly in favour of tonal melody. I found their choices unhackneyed and gratifying. The early Trois mélodies (1887) by Erik Satie stressed easy singability although the piano part is primitive.
Next came a real surprise: three Lieder on Eichendorff texts by famous conductor Bruno Walter, who wrote them in 1910 influenced by Mahler; they are very easy on the ear, with lush Post-romantic harmonies.
Two composers who trained together and were friends came next: Gian Carlo Menotti with Five songs (1983) on texts of his own (quite good) and Samuel Barber with his Four Songs Op.13 (1940) on widely different poetry (Hopkins, Yeats, Agee and Prokosch).
In both cases, strongly felt music with a true knowledge of the human voice in Neo-Romantic style. Finally, Five Songs Op. 38 by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, that versatile composer who gave us an opera like Die Tote Stadt and also the music for Errol Flynn movies.
Two are Lieder on Dehmel and Eichendorff; the third is on an old Spanish text translated by Koch; the fourth is an English folk text; and the last, a sonnet by Shakespeare, all with very apposite music. Even the encores were interesting: Do Not Go, My Love, by the little-known Richard Hageman, and Heart, We Will Forget Him, from the splendid Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson, by Aaron Copland. Blanco and Prémoli are two solid veterans and they know what they do; her voice sounded a bit fragile at first but soon took body and range, and the pianist was always in the picture.
The title of the CETC (Centre for Experimentation) recital was intriguing: Two Coyotes.
It turned out to be the name taken by two notable Finnish players: cellist Anssi Karttunen and pianist Magnus Lindberg. Why? Because of a homonymous piece written by Lindberg in 1991 (revised in 2002). In fact, that work started this sui generis concert made up of Lindberg works plus an improvisation by both players plus two Stravinsky scores arranged by both.
Lindberg is, in fact, a highly considered composer in Europe, although rarely done here. Karttunen and Lindberg are stunning players capable of almost anything, and of course they have complete rapport.
Lindberg, born in 1958, presented three scores: Two Coyotes, cello and piano; Stroke, for cello (1984); and Santa Fe Project, cello and piano (2006).
His music is tense, contrasted, with some avant garde traits, and is mostly a game of oppositions between both instruments; Stroke is harsh and brief.
The two Stravinsky arrangements seemed to me unnecessary in the sense that the composer himself has made them for the chosen works: there is a Suite Italienne derived from Pulcinella and a fine violin/piano arrangement of the Russian song from Mavra.
However, the suite concocted by both players from Pulcinella (in itself a Neoclassic modernization of Pergolesi and attributed Pergolesi originals) is quite different from Stravinsky’s and holds its own with much humour. The Russian song sounds lovely in cello and piano.
Finally, a song recital at the Alliance Française gave me much pleasure, with the revelation of the finely cultivated voice of Sophie Klussmann nicely accompanied by pianist Anaïs Crestin.
They collaborated on six Lieder by Brahms, the six exquisite Ariettes oubliées by Debussy on Verlaine poems, and a final six Lieder by Schubert.